Saturday, December 31, 2011

Here's to the new.

happy new year!

We're in Florida right now
enjoying family
roller coasters
Bloody Marys
and a new year.
Happy 2012!
to you and yours.
Looking forward
to what comes next.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Arroz caldo, and Merry Christmas!

I'm not usually one to make lists until my tasks start to get too overwhelming. There are grocery lists, of course, and there was the beast of a wedding checklist, but everyday chores, errands or goals never really make it to paper.

Lately, though, there have been weekend lists. It started when I kept bookmarking and printing out recipes to try, only to leave them untouched on the kitchen counter all weekend while I did other things (i.e., nothing). I put the recipes on the list. Then I had to make sure I got my oil changed and did the laundry. Then it was two weeks before Christmas, and there were gifts to make and to order. Now, Christmas weekend is here, and the remaining tasks on my list include: wrap presents, make more Heath bar cookies, buy tickets to Universal Studios (I'll be in Florida next week!), pack for said Florida trip, and make chocolate bourbon milkshakes. That last one has been making its way to the bottom of the list for weeks now. Don't worry, it'll happen. Just not today.

Here's something I did check off my list: arroz caldo.

chicken arroz caldo

I wanted to make sure I made this and shared it with you before Christmas, because it's a Filipino Christmas food. At least, it's what my parents said they'd eat on Christmas Eve in the Philippines. And when I told my mom I made it, she said, "Oh that's comfort food." Yes, it so is.

Arroz caldo doesn't look like much. In fact, I've written about it here before and compared it to gruel -- it's a thick, sludgy rice and chicken dish (literally  means "rice broth," and is the Filipino version of congee, or porridge) with no real color besides a sprinkle of green onions and fried garlic flakes. The rice is simmered in chicken broth with ginger, garlic and patis (fish sauce), until the rice thickens yet becomes silky, and soaked with flavor.

It's the type of warming food that you eat out of a big bowl or mug when you're waist-deep in holiday to-dos, and you just need to pause and slow down and be happy that it's the holidays and you made one of your favorite dishes and it tastes (almost!) as good as Mom and Dad's.

Merry Christmas, guys!

chicken arroz caldo

Chicken Arroz Caldo (adapted from Jun-blog and my mom's method)
My mom makes arroz caldo with bone-in chicken parts and water. I was too lazy to deal with chicken bones, so I used boneless chicken thighs and broth, instead -- per Jun's recipe. This stuff thickens a lot over time, so just add a bit of water before reheating. 

1 tablespoon canola oil
3 - 5 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped, about 1/2 tablespoon
1 small onion, chopped, about 1/3 cup
1 - 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced
1 cup short-grain rice
4 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons fish sauce
green onions, thinly sliced for garnish
fried garlic flakes, recipe below

Heat canola oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the ginger, onion, and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the fish sauce and let simmer for a few minutes, then add rice and simmer a few minutes more, stirring often. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer, stirring frequently until the chicken and rice are cooked through, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the fried garlic flakes: Smash and mince 3 large garlic cloves. Heat a few tablespoons of canola oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and fry until a deep golden brown. Transfer the flakes to a paper towel and set aside.

Serve arroz caldo with fried garlic flakes and green onions sprinkled on top. Makes 6 servings.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Heath bar cookies, and holidays past.

heath bar cookies

About this time last year, I made my first batch of cookies. A year ago! They were chocolate chip, and there was snow on the ground, and I made them in my parents' kitchen while they were out of town and Murdo and I were catsitting, and I think we stopped at Leno's before that to pick up some delicious sub sandwiches.

That same day, or maybe the day before, I had met Shanna and my sister at Honey Cafe for lunch, and Jenny brought us sugar cookies, and they wished me luck when I told them I was setting off on my maiden cookie bake.

chopped heath

The week before that, I wrote about this soup, which I've been making at least once a month, every month, since then. Looking back at that post, I can't believe how white it was outside. The only snow we've gotten around these parts lately has been a light dusting, some flurries, frosty car windows in the morning. It's not looking like we'll have a white Christmas this year, and as much as I complain about the snow when it does arrive, it's always a little disappointing looking out the window on Christmas morning to drab gray instead of bright white.

Two years ago, there were these eggs, and thoughts of giving up on my blog altogether. I'm so glad I didn't. Every year, the holidays come and go, and we often look back and remember the presents we got, and where Christmas dinner was held, and the flight delays and the hustle and bustle and the stressed-out shopping sessions. Looking back through past blog posts, and I'm reminded of those little in-between moments. The ones that might not stick out as defining that year's holiday season, but still helped make it what it was. The new recipes, the first batch of cookies, the mini-breakdowns and the comfort foods that saved the day. I'm happy they're still alive, here.

heath bar cookies

Today, there are these Heath bar cookies. Next year, when I'm looking back at this post, I can remember that I made these on the same weekend of my mom's birthday, when we went to Bob Chinn's and feasted on crab legs and steak, and my sister's belly was round and very much pregnant with the first boy of the family, and Murdo and I saw one of our favorite bands twice that week as Christmas gifts to each other.

Next year, my nephew will be here. The kittens will be cats. There will be soups and stews and slow cooker meals, and wrapping paper on the table, and candy canes and fires. I wonder if there will be snow on the ground.

heath bar cookies

Heath Bar Cookies (from Simply Recipes)
The original recipe, below, makes 6 dozen cookies. I saw that and thought, My goodness that is a lot of cookies. So I halved the recipe. Big mistake, guys. Make them all, and have no regrets.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups chopped Heath Bar pieces, or 8 (1.4 oz) bars

Combine flour, salt and baking soda in one bowl, and set aside. Beat together the butter and the sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla. Add the flour mixture, a third at a time, to the butter sugar mixture until well blended. Mix in the chopped Heath bars. Chill dough for 30 minutes to an hour. 

(I used a hand mixer to beat the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla, then mixed the rest of the ingredients by hand with a spatula.)

Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and spoon the cookie dough onto the sheets, in small 1-inch diameter balls about 3 inches apart. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes, checking often during last 5 minutes, until cookies begin browning at the edges. (Original recipes says 10 - 12 minutes; I baked mine for 15.)

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Makes 6 dozen cookies!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thoughts, and cake.

Is it too late to share some photos of Thanksgiving? Because guys, I'm not too sure what happened to November. It may have been the whiskey.

I started to write this post about Christmastime, but three paragraphs in, I decided I didn't feel like writing anymore. Delete.

That cake pictured above is a walnut coffee cake, made by my sister on Thanksgiving. You know those little crumb cakes with the sticky, sugary, crumbly toppings? Hostess, I think, or maybe Little Debbie. One of those. Anyway, that's this cake. Except better. Make it and eat it. You'll be happy.

I made this tonight. Over the weekend, there was split pea soup and sweet potato fries. A pork roast and mashed potatoes. Apple pie, gingerbread martinis.

When I got home from the gym today, the kittens had knocked over our only plant in the house, and Murdo was vacuuming up the dirt. Then the vacuum broke. The kittens are asleep on their chair now, in a pile. We'll worry about the broken vacuum tomorrow.

It's time for bed. Goodnight!